The Caribbean is generally known for its natural beauty, its easy-going nature, and its wonderful tropical climate. It is safe to say that not many people associate the region with innovations in science and technology. While common reason implies that there must be at least some scientists from the Caribbean, who are they? What have they done?
In fact, there are many world class scientists originating from the Caribbean—individuals who have garnered global recognition and respect for their innovations, inventions and cutting edge methodologies for the advancement of science and technology. Let’s take a look at some of these trailblazers from the humble Caribbean region.
- The Hon. Prof Anthony Chen, OM – Atmospheric Physics
Who is Anthony Chen?
Professor Abraham Anthony Chen is one of the Caribbean’s most distinguished sons. He is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Physics at The University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica. As a professor, Chen conducted extensive research in the areas of Atmospheric Physics & Meteorology, Environmental and Energy Studies and General Physics.
As culmination of his life’s work, Dr Chen’s role as lead author for the publication – Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis for Intergovernmental panel on Climate Change–earned him the illustrious honour of the sharing in the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former US Vice President Al Gore. The aim of the publication was to increase and disseminate greater knowledge of man-made climate change and to lay the foundations for measures needed to counteract such changes.
As a versatile physicist, Professor Chen has also taken on several funded projects. For instance, he has been working in the field of renewable energy since the late 1970s and is an advocate of a low carbon economy. His published works include books, journal articles, conference papers and reports to the government and industry. In fact, his publications exceed 30 titles.In 2005, Chen was conferred the Order of Merit, Jamaica’s third highest honour as well as the Silver Musgrave Medal for climate studies in that same year.
- Prof. Louis Grant, M.D., C.H., M.P.H., DIP BACT., FAPHA, F.C. PATH, F.A.A.N
A leading microbiologist and pathologist, Prof. Louis Grant has tremendously impacted lives locally and internationally. Prof. Grant has been affiliated with the University of the West Indies, Mona (Jamaica) for over 20 years. In his younger years Grant served his country as a medical doctor, microbiologist and pathologist.
As an avid scientist and philanthropist, he underwent extensive research into diseases such as tuberculosis and leptospirosis. His findings lead to mass vaccinations and public information campaigns. Furthermore, his work led to the isolation of the dengue virus which ravaged Jamaica in the 1960’s. The results of such instigations and research lead to global acclaim as scientists all over the word began taking note and adopting Grant’s findings, innovations, and methodologies. He also conducted research into less common viruses and pathogens such as the arbovirus.
Despite the greatness of these stated achievements, this is simply a snippet of the invaluable work Grant has done for the Caribbean and the world in general. Today, Professor Grant’s legacy lives on in several ways-through scholarships, grants, institutions (such as a clinic), etc. His laborious work at the UWI culminated in his designation as professor emeritus in microbiology.
- Dr. Marcia Roye, Biochemist
Originating from a rural farming area in Jamaica, Dr. Marcia Roye is one of the Caribbean’s promising scientists. Roye got off to a running start earning her PhD in Biochemistry from the University of the West Indies studying genetic diversity of geminiviruses at the age of 26.
Through her research she has tackled the origins of numerous infectious diseases in an effort to develop control strategies as well as curing agents. Most recently, Roye has expanded her scientific repertoire in the study of drug resistance in HIV/AIDS patients in Jamaica. Her research team assists physicians in providing patient-specific drug combinations. In this way, her work contributes to a better quality of life and prolongs the lifespan of HIV/AIDS patients.
Roye is also involved in outreach, helping to shape and develop young minds. She has developed workshops on Concepts in Genetic Engineering, teaching participants (high school teachers and students) about recombinant DNA technology. For the everyday, she has an open door policy for students seeking advice pertaining to their academic or professional careers.
For her stellar work over her few years, she has been awarded the Scientific Research Council Young Scientist Award, and Fulbright Fellowship. In fact, such work has culminated with the L’Oreal UNESCO Special Fellowship — in the footsteps of Marie Curie, the first such awardee. As an illustrious female scientist, Roye encourages young girls to get involved in the field as she believes that a career in science is a viable career option for young people in Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean.
- Roger S. Pulwarty, Atmospheric Physics
Roger S. Pulwarty is a scientist hailing from Trinidad and Tobago. Like Chen, Pulwarty is known for his work as a contributor to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.
Atmospheric scientists and climatologist, Pulwarty’s major research and publications have been cantered on climate, climatic impacts and adaptation of policy in Western North America, Latin America and the Caribbean.
Through his career, he has served on committees of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and has provided testimonies before the U.S. Congress on climate, water resources and adaptation. Today, Pulwarty is the director of the US National Integrated Drought Information System at the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Boulder, Colorado. In this capacity, Dr.Pulwarty acts in advisory roles on climate, natural resources, and disaster management to several U.S. and international interests groups.
Dr Pulwarty’s aim is to develop centres at academic institutions to reach out to both the public and private sectors so that they may realise that climate change is here, it is real and it must be confronted in a manner that indicates urgency and importance.
- Dr. Ivan Chang Yen, Analytical Chemistry
Guyanese born Dr. Ivan Chang-Yen is one of the Caribbean’s leading analytical chemists, who has taught, published and consulted extensively in his field for nearly thirty years.
Chang-Yen is well-known for his research on heavy metals and for pioneering work on the fingerprinting of crude oils in land and marine environments. Other important works include food safety and security; laboratory quality; lead pollution, poisoning and prevention. Speaking to the magnitude of his achievements, all the previously mentioned research methods have had significant social and environmental value locally and in the wider Caribbean.
He currently holds memberships in the American Chemical Society and the Association of Official Analytical Chemists and is the Trinidad and Tobago representative to the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry.
Science and technology is critically important in making the world a better place. Advancements in medicine, industry, food security, etc. are all powered by improvement in scientific knowledge. This fact is known the world over —including in the Caribbean— and has been recognized by the stellar career achievements of these stalwarts of science and technology.
While the region has its fair share of popular entertainers, prolific sports personalities and powerful politicians, it has produced esteemed scientists as well. As scientific knowledge evolves, we can only wait to see the ground-breakingachievements that current and future scientist from the Caribbean will herald.
By Norvan Martin